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Two different Chinese Cookbooks - Eileen Yin-Fei Lo & Grace Young


budrichard
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I have had a copy of Eileen Yin-Fei Lo's book 'The Chinese Kitchen' for many years and have found it to be a very useful book in preparation of Chinese cuisine. When her new book came out, 'Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking', it was an automatic addition to my library. At about the same time Grace Young's book, 'Stir-Frying To The Sky's Edge' came out and I decided to order both after perusing both at my local library.

Both are very good cookbooks and useful additions but Eileen's book is much more detailed and on the whole her recipes require one to make a number of ingredients which I like to do and hopefully add to the authenticity of the recipes.

I made 'Crisp Beef' and 'Eggplant With Garlic Sauce' and they were two of the finest Chinese preps I have ever made.

From Grace Young's book I made 'Hot Pepper Beef' which appears to me to be more Cantonese than anything but very good never the less. Good Cantonese cooking can be very good in its own right. Grace does say that the recipe is for those that have limited access to Asian Ingredients.

It appears to me that the books have different styles possibly relating to the differences in background of the two authors.

Has anyone else had similar conclusions?

I would recommend both to anyone.-Dick

Edited by budrichard (log)
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Both of Grace Young's books, "The Breath of a Wok," and "Stir Frying to the Sky's Edge have become standards in my library. Eileen Yin-Fei Lo's book was a bit of a disappointment to me.

It surprised me that some of her recipes were not quite authentic, i.e. she used ketchup in Ma Po Doh Fu which does not contain ketchup at all. In the instances where she was making her own sauces from scratch I felt that I would rather use the authentic bottled sauce.

'A person's integrity is never more tested than when he has power over a voiceless creature.' A C Grayling.

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Grace Young's recipe for 'Hot Pepper Beef' uses ketchup also so if that is a criteria for authenticity, than both authors fail but I would think that in this day and age ketchup is now almost a universal condiment.

It would be interesting to hear from individuals with a Chinese cooking background and heritage.-Dick

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I have no problem with ketchup in a Chinese recipe. It was the fact that Eileen used it in a classic like Ma Po Doh Fu that threw me.

'A person's integrity is never more tested than when he has power over a voiceless creature.' A C Grayling.

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Grace Young's recipe for 'Hot Pepper Beef' uses ketchup also so if that is a criteria for authenticity, than both authors fail but I would think that in this day and age ketchup is now almost a universal condiment.

It would be interesting to hear from individuals with a Chinese cooking background and heritage.-Dick

I see a case of a ketchup a week delivered to the best Chinese restaurant on my street (in China). They ain't serving fries, either.

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The only two Asian cookbooks I've found that are even remotely close to the real deal are Corinne Trang's Essentials of Asian Cuisine -- in particular her Southeast Asian food -- and Hiroko Shimbo's The Japanese Kitchen. The former covers Chinese, but with a slant toward Cantonese (SE Asian) cuisine.

And ketchup IS classic for mapo doufu -- classic Chinese American. Ketchup is also standard for sweet & sour sauce and hot & sour soup, etc. What do you expect from Cantonese cooks with American ingredients cooking Szechuan food for Cantonese people?

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OK! OK! You can use ketchup! :smile:

Thanks for mentioning "Corinne Trang's Essentials of Asian Cuisine."

I'll try to pick it up.

Regards,

Hank

'A person's integrity is never more tested than when he has power over a voiceless creature.' A C Grayling.

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The only two Asian cookbooks I've found that are even remotely close to the real deal are Corinne Trang's Essentials of Asian Cuisine -- in particular her Southeast Asian food -- and Hiroko Shimbo's The Japanese Kitchen. The former covers Chinese, but with a slant toward Cantonese (SE Asian) cuisine.

...

What is it about those two books that you like in particular?

For the record, the restaurant is using the ketchup in their sweet n' sour, unless I miss my guess. The mapo tofu is ketchup-free.

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Hi Erin,

I agree with you on the Mapo Dofu. With the exception of Yei-Fin Lo I have never seen a recipe for it with ketchup.

As far as other recipes go, you were absolutely right about the use of ketchup. I had a senior moment and forot that one use of ketchup (among many) is with hot mustard when served with a fried shrimp or similar appetizer.

One book that I go back to time and time again is Irene Kuo's "The Key To Chinese Cooking." She has an emphasis on Schezuan (sp?).

Hank

'A person's integrity is never more tested than when he has power over a voiceless creature.' A C Grayling.

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I'm not Chinese, but I was also pretty underwhelmed by "Mastering the Art"... authentic or no, the recipes seemed a lot of work for undistinguished results. The book sits on my shelf, gathering dust... next to books by Irene Kuo, Fuschia Dunlop, Yan-Kit So, and Grace Young, among others, all of which see much more use.

John Rosevear

"Brown food tastes better." - Chris Schlesinger

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Hi John,

Are you familiar with the Mei Pei (sp?) series of cookbooks? From China and authentic. Considered classics.

I have not heard of Yan-Kit So. What is the title of this persons book? Thanks in advance.

Hank

'A person's integrity is never more tested than when he has power over a voiceless creature.' A C Grayling.

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I don't have either Grace Young or Eileen Yin-Fei Lo's books, so I can't comment on either of them - although Chris Hennes has cooked quite a few recipes out of Grace Young's book.

I have Barbara Tropp's Mastering the Art..., and have only used it to learn how to season my wok. None of the recipes really speak to me. I can see how it was an important book, but it's not the sort of cookbook that I can grab on a Wednesday night and cook something out of, mainly because I find it hard to read through. I like pictures.

I also have Yan Kit-So's Classic Chinese Cooking, and found it great to read through to get a sense of various regions' cuisines, and the technique of cooking with a wok. I don't cook from it very often, though.

The book I cook from most frequently is Fuschia Dunlop's Revolutionary cuisine. I can pick it up and bang off many of her recipes in a half hour, using ingredients from my market. I keep meaning to pick up her other book.

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The only two Asian cookbooks I've found that are even remotely close to the real deal are Corinne Trang's Essentials of Asian Cuisine -- in particular her Southeast Asian food -- and Hiroko Shimbo's The Japanese Kitchen. The former covers Chinese, but with a slant toward Cantonese (SE Asian) cuisine.

And ketchup IS classic for mapo doufu -- classic Chinese American. Ketchup is also standard for sweet & sour sauce and hot & sour soup, etc. What do you expect from Cantonese cooks with American ingredients cooking Szechuan food for Cantonese people?

Just ordered hardcover copies of both books. Only available used in hardcover.

I will compare them them to the Young and Yin-Fei books when I get them. Thanks for the references.-Dick

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I have quite a number of books with Kung Pao recipes in them. I don't know what it is, but Fuschia Dunlop's is about as good as it gets!

Edited by mbhank (log)

'A person's integrity is never more tested than when he has power over a voiceless creature.' A C Grayling.

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I also have Yan Kit-So's Classic Chinese Cooking, and found it great to read through to get a sense of various regions' cuisines, and the technique of cooking with a wok. I don't cook from it very often, though.

I don't cook from it very often anymore, but it was one of the first things I bought after graduating from college 20 yrs ago (along with a 14" carbon steel Taylor & Ng wok from Crate & Barrel, which I still have). I learned an awful lot from that book (and that wok).

John Rosevear

"Brown food tastes better." - Chris Schlesinger

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Hi John,

Are you familiar with the Mei Pei (sp?) series of cookbooks? From China and authentic. Considered classics.

Fu Pei-Mei? I do know who she is, but I've never managed to acquire any of her books.

I have not heard of Yan-Kit So. What is the title of this persons book? Thanks in advance.

"Classic Chinese Cookbook". Not the best by modern standards but very good, with good clear photos, and a better-than-average primer on technique.

John Rosevear

"Brown food tastes better." - Chris Schlesinger

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<>Fu Pei-Mei? I do know who she is, but I've never managed to acquire any of her books.<>

They are "Pei-Mei's Chinese Cookbook" Vols. I, II, and III

Still available through Amazon.com

'A person's integrity is never more tested than when he has power over a voiceless creature.' A C Grayling.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The only two Asian cookbooks I've found that are even remotely close to the real deal are Corinne Trang's Essentials of Asian Cuisine -- in particular her Southeast Asian food -- and Hiroko Shimbo's The Japanese Kitchen. The former covers Chinese, but with a slant toward Cantonese (SE Asian) cuisine.

And ketchup IS classic for mapo doufu -- classic Chinese American. Ketchup is also standard for sweet & sour sauce and hot & sour soup, etc. What do you expect from Cantonese cooks with American ingredients cooking Szechuan food for Cantonese people?

Have you read or at least skimmed the two cookbooks I referenced?

I purchased the two you mentioned and while 'The Japanese Kitchen' is an excellent work it is not about Chinese cooking and is closely matched by 'Japanese Cooking, A Simple Art' by Shizuo Tsuji.

Connie Trang's book is an excellent work but it not about Chinese cooking specifically.

My Original Post was

"It appears to me that the books have different styles possibly relating to the differences in background of the two authors.

Has anyone else had similar conclusions?"-Dick

Edited by budrichard (log)
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For many years I have had Chinese students from various regions of China sharing my home. They all cooked all of their meals at home and we sometimes entertained. Their friends would come and cook as well! We would have food from every region of China. It was a feast and I learned a lot from them.

They were all good cooks, one was exceptional. He was from Fujian and cooked only the freshed of seafood dishes. Of course none of them used cookbooks and found it amusing that I had so many Chinese cookbooks and that I cooked from them. However they tasted my dishes and some they approved of as worthy contributions to their banquets. They found Eileen Yin Fei Lo's steamed fish with ginger and grren onion to be excellent and authentic as well as her mapo dofu which they said was unusual but still delicious. I also made a sizzling beef dish from Ken Hom's cookbook on Hong Kong and Kylie Kwong's fried rice which they approved and deigned to eat.

I have owned Irene Kuo's cookbook for years and it is worn and stained but that is the book I used to teach myself Chinese cooking as did my husband. I learned to make red cooked duck, pork buns and mandarin pancakes, to velevet chicken and shrimp, dry cook green beans, cook pork two ways etc etc.

I cooked excellent recipes for Chinese tripe and steamed beef coated in ground rice, and rice cakes as well as noodle dishes from Barbara Tropp's cookbooks. These were recipes for food that I ate in an obscure Chinese restaurant in Montreal during my youth and was nostalgic for. They came from the Chinese menu and were not available on the English menu. Barbara Tropp's recipes approximated my food memories of these dishes very well.

I have bought Grace Young's cookbooks and love how she writes about Chinese food and how to cook it. She articulates beautifully for me, the process of cooking the way Chinese people do, the way I observed my Chinese students cooking. I haven't cooked from her books yet but I plan to. Her recipes seem very Cantonese to me and my taste buds don't always lean in that direction.

And I love Fuschia Dunlop's books and have cooked from them. The most recent Chinese student who lived in my home was a senior government official from Naning. She was writing a book on Asian trade agreements but in between she cooked and entertained a lot. She was scornful of my Chinese cookbooks except for one and that was Fuschia Dunlop's Cooking for Chairman Mao (I may be remembering the title incorrectly.) She highly approved of the recipe for Chairman Mao's favourite dish Braised Pork Belly which she cooked often. Since I frequently found Fuschia Dunlop's cookbook on the dining room table I can only assume that she was consulting it although she never would have admitted to doing that.

IMG_1503.JPG

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And I love Fuschia Dunlop's books and have cooked from them. The most recent Chinese student who lived in my home was a senior government official from Naning. She was writing a book on Asian trade agreements but in between she cooked and entertained a lot. She was scornful of my Chinese cookbooks except for one and that was Fuschia Dunlop's Cooking for Chairman Mao (I may be remembering the title incorrectly.) She highly approved of the recipe for Chairman Mao's favourite dish Braised Pork Belly which she cooked often. Since I frequently found Fuschia Dunlop's cookbook on the dining room table I can only assume that she was consulting it although she never would have admitted to doing that.

I took Revolutionary Cuisine into my work to photocopy a few recipes for a friend and my Principal saw it - flipping through it, she said, "Wow, this is true countryside cooking". When I cook the recipes in this book, they taste like things I can buy in the restaurants around my home.

Neither of Grace Young's or Eileen Yin-fei Lo's books interest me, based the small glimpses of what I've seen in this topic and others on them. I think the regionality of Chinese cooking and Chinese cooks cannot be underestimated, though. My Jiangsu-nese coworkers speak contemptuously of Guangdong style dishes; others, from Shandong and Xinjiang, complain the local food here is too sweet. Local people claim the only true hairy crab is from Lake Yangcheng - but internationally we know Shanghai Hairy crab. Frankly, I'd love to see some more books that don't focus on common restaurant dishes, or dishes from Guangdong. "Beyond the Great Wall" and "Sichuan Cookery" are a good start, but I hope we'll see more options in the future.

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Thank you for correcting the title of Fuschia Dunlop's book Revolutionary Cuisine. I absolutely agree with you on the regionality of Chinese food and how marvellous it would be to have more cookbooks that covered these regions and the foods that are prepared there.

I agree as well that those from each region are very chauvinistic about their food and downright condemn the food of other regions. I remember Simon, the student from Fujian who cooked such wonderful fish and seafood dishes, would not tolerate meat dishes as part of his meals, and Zhoa hui wei, who was from Nanning would always claim her food was the best.

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    • By liuzhou
      Note: This follows on from the Munching with the Miao topic.
       
      The three-hour journey north from Miao territory ended up taking four, as the driver missed a turning and we had to drive on to the next exit and go back. But our hosts waited for us at the expressway exit and lead us up a winding road to our destination - Buyang 10,000 mu tea plantation (布央万亩茶园 bù yāng wàn mǔ chá yuán) The 'mu' is  a Chinese measurement of area equal to 0.07 of a hectare, but the 10,000 figure is just another Chinese way of saying "very large".
       
      We were in Sanjiang Dong Autonomous County, where 57% of the inhabitants are Dong.
       
      The Dong people (also known as the Kam) are noted for their tea, love of glutinous rice and their carpentry and architecture. And their hospitality. They tend to live at the foot of mountains, unlike the Miao who live in the mid-levels.
       
      By the time we arrived, it was lunch time, but first we had to have a sip of the local tea. This lady did the preparation duty.
       

       

       
      This was what we call black tea, but the Chinese more sensibly call 'red tea'. There is something special about drinking tea when you can see the bush it grew on just outside the window!
       
      Then into lunch:
       

       

      Chicken Soup
       

      The ubiquitous Egg and Tomato
       

      Dried fish with soy beans and chilli peppers. Delicious.
       

      Stir fried lotus root
       

      Daikon Radish
       

      Rice Paddy Fish Deep Fried in Camellia Oil - wonderful with a smoky flavour, but they are not smoked.
       

      Out of Focus Corn and mixed vegetable
       

      Fried Beans
       

      Steamed Pumpkin
       

      Chicken
       

      Beef with Bitter Melon
       

      Glutinous (Sticky) Rice
       

      Oranges
       

      The juiciest pomelo ever. The area is known for the quality of its pomelos.
       
      After lunch we headed out to explore the tea plantation.
       

       

       

       

       
      Interspersed with the tea plants are these camellia trees, the seeds of which are used to make the Dong people's preferred cooking oil.
       

       
      As we climbed the terraces we could hear singing and then came across this group of women. They are the tea pickers. It isn't tea picking time, but they came out in their traditional costumes to welcome us with their call and response music. They do often sing when picking. They were clearly enjoying themselves.
       

       
      And here they are:
       
       
      After our serenade we headed off again, this time to the east and the most memorable meal of the trip. Coming soon.
       
       
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